Now down 3-2 after winning Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, the Chicago Cubs still have some work to do to force a Game 7 in Cleveland. Here’s a few things that need to happen for them to win Game 6 on Tuesday night.
It’s not over yet, Cubs fans.
Following yet another strong outing from Cy Young contender Jon Lester, a rare lengthy outing from closer Aroldis Chapman and some timely hitting from the offense, including a big home run from slumping MVP candidate Kris Bryant, the Chicago Cubs kept their World Series hopes alive on Sunday night with a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field.
It was their first home victory in the Fall Classic since 1945, staving off elimination as the series moves back to Cleveland for Game 6 on Tuesday night.
In case you haven’t heard, the Chicago Cubs are trying to win their first title in 108 years. Through five games, it’s been the Cleveland Indians, who themselves are attempting to snap a 68-year championship drought, who have looked like the better team, even though the Cubs finished nine games better in the regular season standings and came into this 2016 World Series as the favorite.
Indians ace and former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber dominated Game 1 of this World Series and was nearly just as good in Game 4. If the Cubs want one more crack at him in Game 7, they’ll first have to get past Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin, who pitched 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout baseball last Friday night in the Indians’ 1-0 victory. The Cubs will counter with Game 2 winner and last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.
Here are three things that the Cubs need to happen for this series to get to a seventh game.
3. The Cubs need to get to Josh Tomlin early
On July 27, 2010, Josh Tomlin made his big-league debut with the Cleveland Indians. He gave up one run on three hits in seven solid innings of work in a victory over the New York Yankees. Four days later, he threw 5 1/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays and took a no-decision after giving up one run on four hits. That marks the only time in the 32-year-old right hander’s career that he’s pitched on short rest….until Tuesday night, that is.
Now, for a guy with a career ERA of 4.58, Tomlin has been extremely effective this postseason, posting a 1.76 mark in three postseason appearances, giving up just three runs on nine hits in 15 and 1/3 innings, including his 4 and 2/3 innings of scoreless work in Game 3. He’s relied on his curveball quite a bit and has been able to rely on it on a constant basis. Given the Cubs’ offensive issues hitting the curveball in this series, this game could be over early if Chicago can’t get to Tomlin in the early innings.
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It all starts at the top of the lineup with Dexter Fowler, who’s been starting to see the ball a little better as the series has progressed. Kris Bryant came up with a big home run in Game 5 after struggling through the first four games of this series, Anthony Rizzo has gone 4-for-10 over the last three games and Ben Zobrist, despite some struggles the past few nights, is still hitting .368 in this World Series.
This top four in the Cubs’ lineup needs to get at Tomlin in the very first inning to set a pace for the game and get on the board first. The Cleveland bullpen and specifically Andrew Miller, who did not pitch in Game 5 and also had an extra day off on Monday, will be well-rested and likely used often by Terry Francona. The Cubs do not want to put themselves in a position in which they have to fight back in the late innings, which is why they need to pounce early on an average pithcer who is on short rest.